Fleece – Do’s and Don’t’s for sewing and caring for the fabric

 This Fleece is not that fleece ? then What is Fleece?

There is a kind of wool (merino wool fleece) which is called fleece. But that is not the fleece we are fleecediscussing here. The fleece we will be talking about is mostly made up of 100% polyester (synthetic) fibers but at times may also contain other fibers like cotton, lycra, spandex, rayon .

Fleece is a soft warm fabric with a napped surface which makes an inexpensive but more warmth giving alternative to wool. It is a knit fabric rather than a woven fabric and does not fray at the cut edges.

Nowadays fleece is even made from recycled plastic soda bottles. By wearing fleece I am doing something for the nature. That is good. Fleece is increasingly used to make jackets, vests, sweaters , slippers, gloves, hoodies, hats, blankets, even  form fitting jeans. It is very popularly used for crafting no-sew projects like blankets, scarves and other crafts like applique

How is fleece made

Twisted yarns are knitted into the fleece fabric. A wire brush is then used on the surface to roughen it up and create the nap.

Characteristic qualities of Fleece

The main characteristics of fleece are its warmth, softness and water repellency. Infact fleece was discovered in the 1970s to compete with wool; It is a perfect wool alternative for people allergenic to wool. The warmth of fleece is so much valued in making clothes that it is the favourite fabric choice when making winter clothes.  Other characteristics are

  • Breathable
  • durable
  • hard wearing
  • washable
  • moisture wicking
  • Deep pile texture
  • Warmth even when wet
  • No fraying
  • Has a nap
  • Wind resistance
  • Lighter than wool
  • Has stretch along the cross-grain 
  • Most fleece will not shrink
  • Width usually is between 58 nch – 62 inch

Disadvantageous  characteristics of fleece are bulkiness, piling and fading, odor & pet hair attraction

Cost of fleece can be determined by several factors, including weight, stretch and pilling. Deciding which type of  fleece is right for you can depend on the project you are working on.

Different types of fleece

  • Cotton fleece – A knitted fabric with a soft nap.It has great breathability and warmth absorption
  • Rayon fleece – Made from rayon fibers this fleece is soft smooth and breathable.
  • Polyester fleece – High quality durable fleece which is double sided and very soft. Both the sides of polyester fleece has pile; it doesnot pil like other fleece
  • Hemp fleece – Very fluffy natural fleece which contains  cotton and hemp; it is smooth on one side and has a deep pile on the other side
  • Bamboo fleece – Made from cellulose fibers of bamboo and cotton; Characterized by soft drape soft texture and absorbency
  • Polar fleece – a thick 100% synthetic insulating fleece fabric which makes good lining for jackets ad sweaters. It is not moisture wicking like micro fleece but very economical and warmth giving 
  • Faux sherpa – As the name indicates faux sherpa resembles the fluffy wooly sherpa fur.Fibers with curly texture. Used for jacket linings and pet beds
  • Blizzard fleece – a very heavy fleece
  • Micro fiber fleece – Very soft and lightweight fleece, which keep imposture away from body hence very much used in sports wear and cloth nappies and nightwear
  • Double sided cuddle fleece – A fleece with a very deep pile which makes it very plushy and luxurious. It can be  used to make very cushy bath robes
  • Micro chamois – a very lightweight and soft  fleece used to make baby blankets, diaper liners and under garments. 
  • Anti pill fleece – Fleece which doesn’t have those unsightly little balls of fiber on the surface.
  • Berber fleece – Fleece with a nubby appearance; this fabric is used commonly to make pillows and throws, vests.Berber is a pile product, in that it has a flat knitted back and a curly right surface, similar to sherpa fabrics. Berber is a little harder to sew than fleece, but it is also a little warmer.
  • Windbloc fleece – A water resistant double faced fleece and soft fleece which is usually used to make sportswear.
  • Power stretch – This is a mix of lycra and fleece and comes with the stretchiness of lycra
  • Plush -Plush is a sheared berber fleece ;  it has a flat knitted back, but a velour finish on the right side. This is the most expensive of the fleece products. .

Then there is the all natural Merino wool fleece – A fabric made from fibers made from merino sheep’s wool. Very fluffy moisture absorbing and warming fleece

A typical surface finish in fleece is brushed finish and the fleece which is brushed is referred as the regular fleece. Fleece is very likely to pil than other fabric. Anti pil finish is a very recent advancement which makes the fleece slightly more expensive. This finish has a no little balls of pils on the surface.

How to ensure the quality of the fleece you havefleece

  1. Ensure high density of fibers. This indicates high quality
  2. Ensure quick recovery after stretching. Quicker recovery means greater quality
  3. Pilling of fibers on the surface. Greater quality fleece pills less. You can check this by rubbing the fleece fabric with itself and check for small ball like pills appearing on the surface, at the store itself before buying fleece.
  4. High price of fleece – Other than the perceived quality of higher priced fabric, there is a reality in that high priced fleece is of better quality
  5. Look out for high fleece weight – Loft and thickness of the material of fleece is measured in fleece weight – it is usually referred in 100, 200 , 300 fleece weight. Higher the number higher the loft of the fabric and greater the warmth giving property of the fabric. A 300 weight fleece will be appropriate for a very cold weather garment.


Some Do’s and Don’t’s in caring for Fleece

Do not dryclean fleece – they are not meant to be. They are best washed by hand in cold water. Checkout how you can best wash clothes by hand. If you are feeling short of time you can wash it n the washing machine at a delicate setting of your machine. If your machine does not have a low setting do not wash in your machine.

Do turn the garment made of fleece inside out when washing

Do not iron the face of the fabric. Fleece has a low melting point so be careful when ironing. Iron very carefully from the wrong side if you should.
Do not use the dryer to dry fleece . It is better to hang fleece fabric to dry naturally in the sun
Do not use bleach or fabric softeners on fleece
Do not dye fleece. Choose the colour you want when buying the fleece fabric. It is available in a variety of colours and shades.

Do not wash fleece with other clothes like your dark clothes. The lint will be hard to remove.Checkout the post on removing lint from clothes.

Do not wash fleece with lint producing garments like towels. Static electricity in fleece will attract lint like magnet. Better to wash all fleece garments together or alone rather than with other fabrics

Do wash fleece garments inside out.

Do buy anti-pil fleece if you do not want those little balls of fibers all over the surface of the fabric

Do use a razor blade to remove pilling already on the surface of fleece clothes.

How to remove stains on fleece

Spot clean the stains on fleece fabric  by applying mixture of warm water, dish washing detergent and vinegar and rinsing after 5 minutes 

sewing fleece

Sewing with fleece

The main difficulty with sewing fleece is its bulk. It tends to get stuck up in front of the presser foot. One method which helps feed fleece through the machine is to pin the seams alternately: stagger the pins on both sides of the seam to be sewn. Use the tip of your seam ripper to press down the fabric in front of the presser foot if you are still having difficulty getting the fleece to feed easily. 

Do prewash fleece fabric before sewing as some fleece ( especially natural fleece ) may shrink after wash.You will also know whether the fabric will pil or not

Do not choose a sewing pattern with many complicated features 

Do mark the right and wrong side on each pattern piece of the fleece fabric. This can be done using chalk, tape, pins or a method of your choice. The right side is determined by pulling slightly on the crossgrain (the cut edge) of the fabric. The fleece will always roll to the wrong side. This is very important. Even on non-pilling polar fleece, the “right” side will wear better than the “wrong” side.If the fabric you have has the selvages intact, stretch it, it will curl to the right side. 

Do not cut fleece like other fabric. It is a very thick fabric and hence need very sharp scissors. You may have to cut thick fleece in single layers.

Do ensure that the fabric piece being cut has nap in the same direction ( nap refers to fibers standing up on the  surface of the fabric in layman’s talk. These fibers all lie  in one direction – when you run your hand across napped fabric, it will feel soft in one direction and different in another ) A downward nap is better.

Do not use fusible interfacing on fleece. Use sew in interfacing. If it is necessary to use a fusible interfacing as per the patter, do not iron directly. Use a pressing cloth and then iron and steam in place with a moderate settings. 

Do use long pins used in quilting to hold layers of fleece together by pinning from the top like a thumb pin rather than like the ordinary dressmaker’s pin which ill fall short when tried on thick fleece

Do use thin cotton or polyester for lining fleece garments; Under collars can be done with nylon taffeta or webbing

Do not stretch fleece as you sew. It may distort the fabric edges permanently

Press seams on fleece. Pressing with a hot iron will be damaging to the fabric surface. A steam from the hot iron will settle the thread and manage the fabric

Do use a very sharp needle to sew fleece – a new one for every project is recommended. Regular needles will do though for thicker fleece you may need a thicker needle. Use a universal, ball-point or stretch needle–they have rounded tips, which separate, rather than pierce, the fabric threads. Use a 70/10 needle for lightweight fleece, 80/12 or 90/14 for midweight and 100/16 for heavyweight. 

Do use polyester thread instead of cotton thread on fleece. Cotton-wrapped polyester thread is good for sewing fleece

Do increase the stitch length than normal for sewing fleece.( 3mm to 4 mm – almost a basting length)
Do use a rotary cutter and mat for best  results
Do use a walking foot when sewing fleece for smooth moving of fabric under the pressure foot

Do lessen the pressure foot pressure a little when sewing fleece

Do not use ordinary zippers on fleece clothes. Use exposed zippers if you could

Do hand blanket stitched hem or a single turned hem on fleece fabric edges.As fleece do not fray, a single turned under edge finish with top stitching would be more than enough for hems and cut edges. Binding with bias tape is also used frequently more for its beauty in contrasting coloured binding tape. 

Do trim the darts and seams to as short as possible and press seams open to lessen bulk

Do Vacuum the room after finishing sewing fleece as the lint will be everywhere. You can do a sewing machine maintenance if you have been regularly sewing with fleece .